1860 Republican National Convention
The 1860 Republican National Convention was a presidential nominating convention that met from May 16 to May 18 in Chicago, Illinois. It was held to nominate the Republican Party‘s candidates for president and vice president in the 1860 election. The convention selected former Congressman Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for president and Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for vice president.
Entering the 1860 convention, Senator William H. Seward of New York was generally regarded as the front-runner, but Lincoln, Governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, former Congressman Edward Bates of Missouri, and Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania all commanded support from a significant share of delegates. Seward led on the first ballot but fell short of a majority, while Lincoln finished in a strong second place. Cameron’s delegates shifted to Lincoln on the second ballot, leaving Lincoln essentially tied with Seward. Lincoln clinched the nomination on the third ballot after consolidating support from more delegates who had backed candidates other than Seward.
Hamlin was nominated on the second vice presidential ballot, defeating Cassius Clay of Kentucky and several other candidates. The Republican ticket went on to win the 1860 general election. After taking office in 1861, Lincoln would appoint all four of his major opponents for the Republican nomination to his cabinet.
By 1860 the dissolution of the Whig Party in America had become an accomplished fact, with establishment Whig politicians, former Free Soilers, and a certain number of anti-Catholic populists from the Know Nothing movement flocking to the banner of the fledgling anti-slavery Republican Party. While the Republican Presidential effort on behalf of the 43-year-old Colonel John C. Frémont in the 1856 election had met with failure, party gains were made throughout the Northern United States as the sectional crisis over slavery intensified.
Party leaders sought to hold their 1860 nominating convention in the burgeoning Middle Western trade center of Chicago, then a city of some 110,000 people. The city had no sufficiently large meeting hall, so an appropriation was made for a temporary wood-frame assembly hall – known as the “Wigwam” – to seat ten thousand delegates, guests, and observers. The rapidly designed and constructed building proved well fit for the purpose, featuring excellent lines of sight and stellar acoustics, allowing even an ordinary speaker to be heard throughout the room.
The Convention commanded the interest and attention of a multitude of curious citizens who crowded the “Wigwam” to the rafters. Delegations were seated by state and the gathering was virtually devoid of Southern participation, with no delegations attending from the slave states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.
Delegation voting strength was loosely based upon the size of each state’s congressional delegation, subject to some modification by the Credentials Committee, with the Northeastern delegations of New York (70), Pennsylvania (54), Massachusetts (26), and New Jersey (14) constituting the largest regional block, surpassing the Midwestern states of Ohio (46), Indiana (26), Illinois (22), and Iowa (8). Some 86 votes were apportioned to the six states of New England. Slave and border states with substantial delegations under the rules (but with small actual party organizations) included Kentucky (23), Virginia (23), and Missouri (18). The total of all credentialed delegate votes was 466.
With the convention called to order on May 16, former U.S. Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania was elected temporary chairman of the gathering. He had been the author in 1848 of the Wilmot Proviso which would have banned slavery from new states incorporated into the Union. Upon his election, Wilmot delivered the keynote speech to the Convention, in which he declared that:
A great sectional and aristocratic party, or interest, has for years dominated with a high hand over the political affairs of this country. That interest has wrested, and is now wresting, all the great powers of this government to the one object of the extension and nationalization of slavery. It is our purpose, gentlemen, it is the mission of the Republican Party and the basis of its organization, to resist this policy of a sectional interest…. It is our purpose and our policy to resist these new constitutional dogmas that slavery exists by virtue of the constitution wherever the banner of the Union floats.
Organizational tasks filled the rest of the first day’s activities, including the appointment of a Credentials Committee and a Resolutions Committee. There were no contested seats although a delegation purporting to represent the state of Texas was ruled ineligible by the Credentials Committee. A Platform Committee was also named, including one delegate from every state and territory in attendance. This committee began its work at once and completed its task with a report on the evening of the second day, May 17.
The reading of the platform, as drafted by the Platform Committee chaired by Judge William Jessup of Pennsylvania, was received with stormy applause and an immediate move followed to adopt the document unanimously and without amendments. An effort followed to amend the platform after adoption with insertion of famous language from the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal; and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” This Amendment was initially rejected by the convention, prompting a walkout by its proposer, long time Ohio Congressman Joshua Reed Giddings. The matter was hastily reconsidered by the Convention, and with the addition of the amendment the disgruntled Mr. Giddings returned to his seat, crisis resolved.
The 1860 Republican platform consisted of 17 declarations of principle, of which 10 dealt directly with the issues of free soil principles, slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act, and the preservation of the Union, while the remaining 7 dealing with other issues.
Clauses 12 through 16 of the platform called for a protective tariff, enactment of the Homestead Act, freedom of immigration into the United States and full rights to all immigrant citizens, internal improvements, and the construction of a Pacific railroad.
In addition to the preservation of the Union, all five of these additional promises were enacted by the Thirty-seventh Congress and implemented by Abraham Lincoln or the presidents who immediately succeeded him.
The convention met in mid-May, after the Democrats had been forced to adjourn the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, without a nominee and had not yet re-convened in Baltimore, Maryland. With the Democrats in disarray and with a sweep of the Northern states possible, the Republicans were confident of victory. Senator William H. Seward of New York was generally expected to get the nomination.
Other candidates seeking the nomination at the convention included Lincoln, Governor of Ohio Salmon P. Chase, former U.S. Representative Edward Bates of Missouri, and U.S. Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania.
As the convention developed, however, it was revealed that Seward, Chase, and Bates had each alienated factions of the Republican Party. Delegates were concerned that Seward was too closely identified with the radical wing of the party, and his moves toward the center had alienated the radicals. Chase, a former Democrat, was opposed by many of the former Whigs who had become Republicans, was thought to be too radical on slavery, had opposed tariffs wanted by Pennsylvania manufacturing interests, and critically, had opposition in his own delegation from Ohio. Bates outlined his positions on extension of slavery into the territories and equal constitutional rights for all citizens, positions that alienated his supporters in the border states and southern conservatives. German-Americans in the party opposed Bates because of his past association with the Know-Nothings.
It was essential to carry the West (what would today be considered the Middle West), and Lincoln was a prominent Westerner. He had a national reputation from his debates and speeches, in which he eloquently opposed slavery while avoiding any of the radical positions that could alienate moderate voters. He had the support of the Illinois and Indiana delegations before the convention, and was the strongest candidate other than Seward.
Nonetheless, Seward’s prestige appeared likely to carry him to the nomination.
Lincoln was represented at the convention by his friends Leonard Swett, Ward Hill Lamon, and David Davis. During the night of May 17–18, they worked frantically to win anti-Seward delegates for Lincoln. They showed that Lincoln already had the most support after Seward, which persuaded some. They also made a deal with Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, who recognized that he had no chance of winning the nomination himself. Cameron controlled the Pennsylvania delegation, and he offered to trade his support for the promise of a cabinet position for himself and control of Federal patronage in Pennsylvania. Lincoln did not want to make any such deal; from Springfield, he telegraphed to Davis “I authorize no bargains and will be bound by none“. Despite this restriction, Davis reached an understanding with Cameron, which eventually led to Cameron’s appointment as Secretary of War.
The next day (May 18), when voting for the nomination began, Seward led on the first ballot with Lincoln a distant second. But on the second ballot, the Pennsylvania delegation switched to Lincoln, as well as some other delegates, putting him in a near-tie with Seward. On the third ballot many additional delegates switched to Lincoln, and he won the party’s nomination.
|Nominee||Home State||1st||2nd||3rd||3rd “corrected”|
|William H. Seward||New York||173.5||184.5||180||111.5|
|Salmon P. Chase||Ohio||49||42.5||24.5||2|
|William L. Dayton||New Jersey||14||10||1||1|
|Benjamin F. Wade||Ohio||3||0||–||–|
|John M. Read||Pennsylvania||1||0||–||–|
|John C. Fremont||California||1||0||–||–|
|Cassius M. Clay||Kentucky||–||2||1||1|
Among other accounts, an article, entitled “The Four Votes”, published in the May 19, 1860, edition of the Chicago Press and Tribune attests that after seeing how close Lincoln was to the 233 votes needed, Robert K. Enos, a member of the Ohio delegation, was responsible for getting three fellow Ohio delegates to announce after the close of the third ballot that they were shifting their four votes to Lincoln, which gave him sufficient votes for the nomination. This triggered an avalanche towards Lincoln on the fourth ballot, with a final count of 364 votes for Lincoln out of 466 cast.
|Vice Presidential Ballot|
|Cassius M. Clay||Kentucky||100.5||86|
|Andrew H. Reeder||Pennsylvania & Kansas||51||0|
|Henry W. Davis||Maryland||8||0|
|William L. Dayton||New Jersey||3||0|
|John M. Read||Pennsylvania||1||0|
- 1860 Democratic National Convention
- 1860 United States presidential election
- History of the United States Republican Party
- List of Republican National Conventions
- U.S. presidential nomination convention
- Wide Awakes
- Wigwam — Chicago venue for the 1860 convention.
- George O. Seilhamer, Leslie’s History of the Republican Party: Vol. 1: Narrative and Critical History, 1856-1898.” New York: L.A. Williams Publishing and Engraving Co., 1898; pg. 55.
- Seilhamer, Leslie’s History of the Republican Party, vol. 1, pg. 56.
- Proceedings of the Republican National Convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Company. 1860. p. 42.
- Proceedings of the Republican National Convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Company. 1860. p. 69.
- Proceedings of the Republican National Convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Company. 1860. p. 75.
- David Wilmot in Proceedings of the Republican National Convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Company. 1860. p. 5.
- Republican Party National Platform, 1860 Reported from the Platform Committee by Judge Jessup of Pennsylvania and adopted unanimously by the Republican National Convention held at Chicago on May 17, 1860. Broadside printing by The Chicago Press & Tribune, May, 1860
- The Complete Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln. p. 792.
- Hamand, Lavern Marshall (1949). Ward Hill Lamon: Lincoln’s Particular Friend. Doctoral thesis. Graduate College of the University of Illinois.
- Good, Timothy S. (2009). Lincoln for President: An Underdog’s Path to the 1860 Republican Nomination. McFarland. p. 137. ISBN 9780786453061.
- Proceedings of the Republican national convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860
- Casdorph, Paul Douglas (1962). “The Bogus Texas Delegation to the 1860 Republican National Convention”. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 65 (4): 480–486. JSTOR 30237786.
- Curry, Earl R. (1973). “Pennsylvania and the Republican Convention of 1860: A Critique of McClure’s Thesis”. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 97 (2): 183–198. JSTOR 20090731.
- Ecelbarger, Gary (2008). The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination. New York: St. Martin’s. ISBN 0-312-37413-5.
- Foner, Eric (1970). Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-501352-2.
- Foner, Eric (1980). Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-502781-7.
- Grinspan, Jon (2009). “‘Young Men for War’: The Wide Awakes and Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential Campaign”. Journal of American History. 96 (2): 357–378. JSTOR 25622297.
- Johnson, Charles W., ed. (1893). Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions of 1856, 1860 and 1864: Including Proceedings of the Antecedent National Convention Held at Pittsburg in February, 1856, as Reported by Horace Greeley. Minneapolis, MN: Harrison and Smith, Printers.
- Luthin, Reinhard H. (1942). “Indiana and Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency”. Indiana Magazine of History. 38 (4): 385–405. JSTOR 27787334.
- Kellogg, Amherst W. (1921). “The Chicago Convention of 1860”. Wisconsin Magazine of History. 5 (1): 99–104. JSTOR 4630342.
- Roll, Charles (1929). “Indiana’s Part in the Nomination of Abraham Lincoln for President in 1860”. Indiana Magazine of History. 25 (1): 1–13. JSTOR 27786367.
- Shutes, Milton H. (1948). “Republican Nominating Convention of 1860: A California Report”. California Historical Society Quarterly. 27 (2): 97–103. JSTOR 25156091.
- Temple, Wayne C. (1999). “Delegates to the Illinois State Republican Nominating Convention in 1860”. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 92 (3): 289–298. JSTOR 40193228.
- Van Deusen, Glyndon G. (1947). “Thurlow Weed’s Analysis of William H. Seward’s Defeat in the Republican Convention of 1860”. Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 34 (1): 101–104. JSTOR 1895998.
- Proceedings of the Republican National Convention held at Chicago, May 16, 17 and 18, 1860. Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons, and Company, 1860.
|Republican National Conventions||Succeeded by
- Republican Party Platform of 1860 at The American Presidency Project
- “Republican National Platform, 1860,” Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum, www.cprr.org/ —Digital image of printed campaign flyer.